Prostitutes were usually young women living in urban regions. The following table shows that more than half of the 2,749 Berlin prostitutes who were processed by police authorities and subject to health supervision [Sanitätskontrolle] between August 1872 and October 1873 were between 21 and 35 years old (183 prostitutes were aged 17 or younger). Many prostitutes were unmarried servants, unskilled workers, or textile home-workers. The table in document 34 in this chapter shows that whereas one in five prostitutes had a father or mother working in a factory, almost one in two came from a family where one or both parents were craft workers. The table in document 35 in this chapter shows that nearly half of the women were home-workers or shop assistants before they turned to prostitution. Only 16% had been factory workers. Servants, probably from rural areas and usually from lower-class families, constituted another large group. Many who had moved to the city to find paid work were forced into prostitution upon discovering that their wages did not cover the expenses of everyday life.
In the 1880s, prostitution became a much-discussed issue. The middle-class women’s movement generally condemned prostitution outright. The first German branch of the International Abolitionist Federation [Deutscher Kulturbund], founded in 1880 by Gertrude Guillaume-Schack (1845-1903), condemned the double standard whereby prostitutes but not their clients were punished; it also advocated deregulation as a means of fighting sexually transmitted diseases. According to one source, in 1890 a total of 4,039 Berlin prostitutes were under police supervision. Many of these were confined to designated areas of a city [Sperrbezirke]. But another estimate puts the total number of prostitutes in Berlin closer to 30,000 in the 1890s, between 100,000 and 200,000 in all of Germany, and as high as 330,000 nation-wide on the eve of the First World War. (Angelika Schaser, Frauenbewegung in Deutschland 1848-1933 [Women’s Movements in Germany, 1848-1933], Darmstadt, 2006, p. 70.) Prostitutes’ clients came from all parts of the population, many of them being sailors, soldiers, and students.